Sea Otter: Fur

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ambience: Sea Otters

Southern Sea Otters spend much of their time foraging for shellfish in the frigid Pacific waters of Monterey Bay in northern California. To keep warm, the otters trap air bubbles beneath their fur, creating a natural wet suit to keep their skin warm and dry. I’m Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet. Andy Johnson works with injured and abandoned sea otters at the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Sea Otter Research and Conservation Program.

“The sea otters have two layers of fur. One is an outer fur, which is comprised of guard hairs, and these guard hairs actually knit together almost like a zipper in a way, as they lay back along the outer skin. So when they dive the fur lays along the body and actually forms almost a water tight barrier. The underfur is extraordinarily dense, very fine fur. And that’s the fur that’s able to trap air and hold it in close to the body so that the skin actually doesn’t get wet. ”

Sea Otter’s watertight outer fur keeps it dry. And by working tiny bubbles into the space between their outer and under fur, the otter is able to insulate itself from the cold water.

“They’ll actually blow bubbles in the water, work it in with their paws. Just their rolling action – their vigorous rolling action – while they’re grooming, catches air and gets into the deeper areas of the fur. So in essence, they look wet all the time, but right by their skin, and out for a significant distance from their skin and their underfur, it’s completely dry. If you pull a Sea Otter out of the water whose fur is in good condition, in about thirty seconds they’ll appear totally dry. It’s quite amazing.”

We’ll hear more about efforts to return abandoned Southern Sea Otter pups to the wild in future programs.

To hear about our new CD, please visit pulseplanet.com. Pulse of the Planet is presented by the National Science Foundation. I’m Jim Metzner.

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Sea Otter: Fur

A sea otter's layered fur is waterproof and warm even in frigid conditions.
Air Date:12/15/2003
Scientist:
Transcript:


music
ambience: Sea Otters

Southern Sea Otters spend much of their time foraging for shellfish in the frigid Pacific waters of Monterey Bay in northern California. To keep warm, the otters trap air bubbles beneath their fur, creating a natural wet suit to keep their skin warm and dry. I'm Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet. Andy Johnson works with injured and abandoned sea otters at the Monterey Bay Aquarium's Sea Otter Research and Conservation Program.

"The sea otters have two layers of fur. One is an outer fur, which is comprised of guard hairs, and these guard hairs actually knit together almost like a zipper in a way, as they lay back along the outer skin. So when they dive the fur lays along the body and actually forms almost a water tight barrier. The underfur is extraordinarily dense, very fine fur. And that's the fur that's able to trap air and hold it in close to the body so that the skin actually doesn’t get wet. "

Sea Otter's watertight outer fur keeps it dry. And by working tiny bubbles into the space between their outer and under fur, the otter is able to insulate itself from the cold water.

"They'll actually blow bubbles in the water, work it in with their paws. Just their rolling action - their vigorous rolling action - while they’re grooming, catches air and gets into the deeper areas of the fur. So in essence, they look wet all the time, but right by their skin, and out for a significant distance from their skin and their underfur, it's completely dry. If you pull a Sea Otter out of the water whose fur is in good condition, in about thirty seconds they’ll appear totally dry. It's quite amazing."

We'll hear more about efforts to return abandoned Southern Sea Otter pups to the wild in future programs.

To hear about our new CD, please visit pulseplanet.com. Pulse of the Planet is presented by the National Science Foundation. I'm Jim Metzner.

music